Frank Carmichael was a godsend for paying a share of the rent. I was nearly at the end of my tether.
After we returned from Algonquin in late autumn 1914, Jackson was restless and ill at ease. The War was in full swing and it was weighing on his mind In the Park, we saw the first troops trains pass through, and when we returned to Toronto, the platforms at Union Station were nearly impassable from soldiers embracing their loved ones before being shipped out for training an overseas. Alex was very troubled; his year’s patronage with Dr. MacCallum was nearly up (and so was mine). He wanted to return to Montreal. He felt the Studio Building with its fancy kitchens and bathrooms was an extravagance in the face of the sacrifices necessary for War. He left for Montreal. He soon enlisted in the 60th Battalion, trained at Valcartier and shipped overseas. That was the last I saw of him.
When Jackson cleared out, I couldn’t afford the rent my self. Over 20 dollars a month I would have driven myself into abject penury well before the snow disappearing the next spring. Fortunately, Frank Carmichael appeared, having returned from Europe, and more recently from Orillia. He had decided to return to Toronto, and he replaced Alex as my studio mate.
Frank and I had a blaze of time together. We’d get together with Bill Beatty and Arthur Heming our other Studio comrades and we would gab like geese for hours. Frank was younger than me by thirteen years, but that didn’t seem to make much of a difference because he had the same Scottish Presbyterian background and he was a musician too. He played the violin, cello, bassoon and piano too. He played chess, but wasn’t so good because I’d beat him every time. Most importantly, why we got along was that he liked his solitude too. Equally so, when we weren’t gabbing like geese, we could spend hours in the studio together, not saying as much as a word to each other.
Frank had been to Europe and had seen the modern art shows. Japanese woodblock prints were another interest of his. We tried a few of our own, made from leftover pine planks we picked up from construction sites. Our studio space was in utter disarray. Cluttered with half-finished easels, half-used tubes of paints, open bottles of turpentine, and an ever-growing array of unwashed cookware. Bill Beatty didn’t mind the mayhem, he’d come over for dinner often, but I believe that Arthur Heming began to take a disliking to me because our mess. Arthur was a fastidious dandy, so much so, he said that he had no room for a women in his life, as they would mess things up for him. Well that got Bill, Frank and I talking and we never let up on him since. He seemed to have room for men in his studio – we saw a few go in late at night and leave early in the morning. Arhur had that superior smugness about him – we let him have his smugness and never let on we knew his secret. Arthur was a good chess player, I had to give him that. He’d come by and watch our games. I could never beat him. At the club, he studied games from Wilhelm Steinitz and Emmanuel Lasker, the world champion. We’d go to boxing matches, too, with Dr MacCallum. We’d enjoy watching the men fighting, but we knew that Arthur had his additional secret thrill of watching fighting men.